"Who is the biggest role model of your life?" My answer to that question would be Muttiah Muralitharan. I know that answer would confuse most of you. You would expect a geek like me to name some one like Linus Torlvards, Yukihiro Matsumoto or Sergy Brin and Larry Page as a role model. But how come a cricketer be my role model??
In an era where vanity role models are hyped to the top by mass media, Murali stands out from the rest by his own feet. He is great not only for his phenomenal performances in the cricket field, but for his character. None of us could ever emulate his unique bowling action. But there are certain things that we can try to emulate from Murali's character.
It was somewhere in 1998. As a kid, I had rather unusual hobby of collecting cricket statistics. Those days, I didn't know the existence of Cricinfo or didn't even had a computer. I used to record all the scorecards of the matches played during that time in an exercise book. However, my record collection was never complete, I missed lot of score cards of the old matches. Then my uncle tipped me, that the Sri Lankan Cricket Board has a library, where they have all old Wisdens and "The Cricketer" magazines. I could use it to collect the missing match records. After lot of persuasion, I was able to convince him to take me to this place.
Inside the Cricket Board, we had to go pass a gym to get to the library. I saw a very familiar face inside the gym. It was Murali! He was there with another cricketer (as I remember it was Ravindra Pushpakkumara). That was the first time I saw an international cricketer in real life. Murali also saw me and waved. Then I tried to go inside the gym, to get his autograph. The instructor of the gym was there. He told me not to disturb the players and didn't allow me to go inside. As I was turning back in disappointment, the most surprising thing happened. Murali came to the door and signed my autograph book!
This was the period, where Murali was called for chucking for the second time in Australia and he was preparing to undergo medical tests to prove he's legibility. So while he signed my autograph, I told him how angry I'm with Australians for the unjust happened to him. Returning my autograph back, with a bright smile in his face Murali said in Sinhalese "owa ohoma tamai malli..."(These stuff happens).
I couldn't believe how humble and down to earth this person was. He was ready to go out of his way to make some random, pesky kid happy. He could still afford to smile genuinely and take things lightly amidst of all the trouble he has been experiencing at that time. Even today, when I reminisce this incident, it feels like a dream.
For me Murali is a geek. He's not a geek who uses Linux as his primary OS, lurks in IRC or hacks micro-controllers. But his passion and obsession to the game of cricket, makes him a geek in that field.
He's not only a geek, but a hacker. He changed the face of off-spin bowling. When off-spinner was about to go extinct from the game of cricket, Murali came and made it more challenging. He forked the
doosra from Saqlain Mustaq and hacked it into a more lethal weapon. By being different from the rest, he created controversy.
Also, Murali only focused on doing what he can do best. He didn't have to ride Lamborghinis, have affairs with bollywood actresses (but he's got a beautiful wife ) or get into politics to keep him in the limelight. He made the world talk about him and respect him by doing what he can really do - bowling.
When Murali first won his test cap for the Sri Lanka team, it was not the professional, winning outfit you find today. At that time, Sri Lanka was ranked only ahead of Zimbabwe and playing for the national team was not even considered as a profession. Due to the political instability of the country during that time, there were no certainty of the tours and there were no policies for player selection. The future was gloomy and had lots of risk involved. I would say the situation was analogous to working for a startup in the corporate world.
He could have easily stayed in Kandy looking after his family business. Instead Murali took the challenge and came to Colombo to join the national team. It wasn't an easy start. His brilliance was not an one night wonder. As the stats show it took 27 test matches and 3 years to complete his first 100 wickets. During that time, he bowled full days, without much support from the other end and tasted heavy defeats.
Murali persisted and perceived harder. As his performances improved, so did the Sri Lankan team's winning ratios. However, he focused not on his personal feats, but on his team's victory. He had no problems playing under different captains, even juniors to him like Mahela and Sanga. He delivered his best in all circumstances. He never let his personal ego to hinder his duty.
In the last 18 years, he had been working like a horse. As of record, he bowled 33% of all overs Sri Lanka bowled at that time. He had always made himself available for national duty over other more lucrative engagements, such as country cricket in England.
How many of us can have such dedication and commitment to our duty? How many of us would complain if we have to repeat the same old boring job? Murali was no such a person. When he was on field he seems to be enjoying the every moment of it. That should be the secret mantra of Murali's success. That's why I call him the best role model of our era.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Foundation - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/MuralitharanBust2004IMG.JPG)